How to Take Notes from a Textbook

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Textbook readings

Hey guys! I’ve received so many questions about reading textbooks and taking notes on that, so I am going to share with you how I do it.

I like to write on the margins. Not highlight. I don’t use a special color coding technique to separate my comments from key terms from titles from definitions.

My system is very simple and makes sense to me. All I use are:

  • A pencil
  • An eraser
  • Small (not tiny) sticky notes

To start, I think it’s important to read actively. This means to think through the material, note things you don’t understand, complete little practice problems at the end of each section and connect new concepts with each other and the old ones.

The margins of my textbook are pretty thick – so thick I can fit a small 2 x 1.5 inch sticky note.

  • On the sticky note, I write definitions and very important concepts that go with the definition. This means that I have anywhere from 2 to 6 sticky notes per page.
  • I underline important explanations and quotes in pencil. Whatever I think is super important, I underline. I choose not to highlight in order to avoid stupid highlight-every-word-what-if-I-need-to-see-it-later kind of thing.
  • I write small comments in pencil on the margins, near the sticky notes. Usually these are longer explanations of the sticky notes, a little map of the concepts (how what I’ve just read connects to each other), and, most importantly, my own connects that I make while reading. This seems to help a lot, because if I look at this text in a few weeks, I’ll be able to remember my train of thought at the moment of reading.

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That’s it.

It sounds like a lot, but come test time, I will only use the margins and skim the text part of the book for any underlined parts.

I’ll let you guys know how that goes for me this quarter: I’m taking two Psych classes (4 chapters a week, 30 pages each…..) and a Math class.

How to Make a Study Plan

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*My fall quarter starts on September 24th. Professors started posting textbook information, test information, syllabus, etc. on the course websites a couple days, so I thought it would be a good idea to prepare for each class before it starts *

Once you have your textbooks, a little bit of information on the website, and the syllabus, start preparing your study plan for the quarter.

1. Read the course syllabus. Professors know exactly what they will be teaching, how big the workload will be, exam schedules, reading material, etc. Once you read the syllabus, you are already mentally prepared for the class, and it won’t seem as overwhelming on the first day.

** Important information to take away from the syllabus:
– Homework load
– Class schedule, test information
– Retake and make up policy
– Any class- specific information

2. Look up your professor on RateMyProfessorsBy reading other students’ reviews, you can get a preview into what your classes will be like. It’s important not to believe every word you read there, simply because every student has a different (or no) relationship with his professor.

** Info to take away from Ratemyprofessors:
STUDY TIPS. A lot of students write what they’ve done to be successful in the class
– How to professor teaches the class. What materials to use
– Homework/ work load

3. Write down your goals for the course. Whether it’s a specific grade you want to earn or the information you’d like to learn, it’s good to have something to motivate you.

** More info:
– Create a Work Document, a poster or just some random sheet and write down your goals on it
– Hang in somewhere where you’ll see it as a reminder and motivator

4. Note exam dates, reading schedule, etc. Look over the syllabus or a schedule chart, if one is available, and assign yourself pages to read a few weeks ahead. You can always modify this list as the quarter progresses

5. Attend the first few Lectures. Probably the most important thing you could do to prepare for the future classes.

** Info to take away:
– Professor’s teaching style
– Plan a note-taking technique
– What you’ll actually need to read/ do to succeed.
Talk to the professor, ask for tips on how to study for his/her class!!

Scholarships and Financial Aid Websites

*Credit goes to the Bellevue High School Counseling Office*

Chegg: www.chegg.com
Database for scholarships and purchase/rental of textbooks. Very helpful for college students!

Zinch: http://www.zinch.com/
Find scholarships, colleges, financial aid information, etc. here.

FastWeb: www.fastweb.com
Over 400,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants and loans. Customized search based on your personal information and achievements.

Athletic Aid: www.athleticaid.com
Sports scholarships for student athletes

Careers and Colleges: www.careersandcolleges.com
General search for scholarships

College Success Foundation: www.collegesuccessfoundation.org
Scholarships and mentoring to low-income students in Washington state

Colleges, College Scholarships, and Financial Aid page: www.college-scholarships.com/100college.htm
Links to helpful information about colleges and scholarships

College Board: www.collegeboard.com
Scholarships, loans, internships and the CSS Financial Aid Profile.

College Planning Network: www.collegeplan.org
Information on financial aid and scholarships.

FAFSA on the Web: www.fafsa.edu.gov/ (MAKE SURE THE URL ENDS WITH “.gov”!!)

FindTuition.com: www.findtuition.com
3+ million scholarships and grants. Search by eligibility, major, college and more.

Go College: www.gocollege.com
Different Funding Sources.

Mach25: www.collegenet.com/mach25
Provided by CollegeNET, a databse of 600,000 scholarships. Also creates a letter to send to scholarship coordinators.

MeritAid: www.meritaid.com
A directory of merit-based scholarships

National Collegiate Athletic Association: www.ncaa.org
Official website of NCAA

Scholarships.com: www.scholarships.com
Free search and info about student loands, the FAFSA, even scholarship scams.

 

Small Things That Affect Your Concentration

 

Humans can’t pay full attention to two things at once: it’s a fact! (Source 1, 2, 3). While we think we can do two things at the same time, like doing homework and watching a TV show- we’re actually doing neither.

Thus, when there are distractions around us, we cannot fully focus on our work no matter how hard we try. Small things that we usually don’t think about affect our concentration, but are easy to control:

1. Cell Phone
-put it on silent, out of reach and check only once an hour. It can totally wait and whoever texted you can wait a few minutes.

2. Mess
-It sets the mood. The messier your room, the less organized YOU are! Clean and organize your desk, make your bed, and make a schedule everyday.

3. People
-I’ve found that if I study at home, everyone always bothers and distracts me because they know I’m home and can answer a question, clean something, drive, etc. To avoid the same fate, go to the library! Bring a snack, some tea or coffee and focus!

4. Too many pens
-For those of us who like to color code….let’s use up to 3 colors. The more pens and pencils, staplers and little stickers we have around us, the more distracting they are. Three colors are sufficient enough to mark 1) important terms, 2) explanations, 3)titles (that’s an example, you can do it differently). When there are purple, orange, blue, green, red, yellow, etc. colors, the point of highlighting gets lost- your notebook becomes a rainbow.

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Remember Better: Active Recall

To remember new information better, we have to look at studying at a more biopsychological level.

When new information enters our brain, it is first processed in the working memory. This type of memory is not very big- with it we only remember things for about 30 seconds. Example: when you do a math problem, you think about the numbers you’re working with. However, when the problem is solved and you move on to the next one, the numbers are forgotten immediately.

In some cases, the information (now a memory) moves to the short-term memory (STM), where it is kept for a few minutes longer. However, if this memory is not recalled enough times, it will be forgotten. That’s why when we procrastinate and leave the memorizing and studying until the last minute, we don’t remember that information after the exam.

Now for the final part, to transfer the new memory from STM to Long term memory (LTM), we have to use something called active recall. Basically, it’s like quizzing yourself: the more times you remember/recall something, the better you’ll remember it in the future. Like finding your dorm room- the first few times you get lost, but eventually you remember it and have no trouble finding it.

How to Remember Your Lecture

  1. Listen actively- think about what you’re hearing, connect new and old information and write things down in your own words
  2. Pay attention and ask questions: it helps if you understand what’s going on.
  3. Review your notes after class (in the evening)
  4. Study a little every weekend– it’s better than studying for 12 hours in 1 day.

Paper vs. iPad

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Hey everyone!

I received many, many questions recently regarding taking notes on paper versus on a tablet. I will be talking about an iPad in this case, because it’s the one I’m most familiar with.

Taking notes on paper:

+ You’re able to write things down yourself, which should help remember things better
+ You can organize your notebook any way you like and use any note-taking technique you want
+ Journals aren’t very expensive!
– Too many notebooks add up to a heavy backpack.
– To annotate any other files, readings or powerpoints, you”’ have to print those out before class
– “Should I keep my 7th grade science journal in case I need it in the future??” Um, the most important question you’ll ask yourself during spring cleaning.

 

Taking notes on an iPad:

+ You can hand write (with a stylus) or type (attachable keyboard) your notes
+ There are many, many apps to take notes as well as keep you organized and stay on task.
+ All your work can be backed up on a cloud. Also, no more “should I keep this journal?”
+ All you’ll need is an iPad and a stylus/keyboard. No more heavy bags!
+ Expensive. $270- $500…

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